As of now, how many books have you published?
I’ve published five full-length books: On the Choptank Shores (which was initially released as Redeeming Grace), and The Cabin; and three nonfiction books. Two of these are written specifically for writers: Front-Word, Back-Word, Insight Out is the fiction writing workshop I used to teach at community colleges in the Midwest and online in book form. Left Brained, Write Brained: 366 Writing Prompts and Exercises is exactly that: a Leap Year’s worth of exercises. My publisher is working on a combined-eBook version of these two. My fifth book is Observations of an Earth Mage, a collection of photographs, poetry, and prose celebrating the natural beauty of our planet.
I’ve also published half a dozen short stories in eBook form, including “In a Flash,” which is my biographical account of being struck by lightning 22 years ago and the effects I’m still suffering as a result. It’s a pretty dramatic story.
All my books are published by Vanilla Heart Publishing and are available at Amazon; the ebook versions are at Amazon, Smashwords, and in some cases, All Romance Books.
Can you tell us a little about your newest book, On the Choptank Shores?
On the Choptank Shores is a love story. The love between a young wife (Grace) and her decidedly middle-aged husband (Otto), and the love of a big sister for her abused baby sister (Miriam). It is the story of the love for an aging, grief-stricken father (Luther) who is spiraling into a dark world of insanity, and the love of a kind and benevolent God whom Grace knows must exist, despite the crazed ravings of her father, who paints a picture of a vengeful, angry God as he spouts biblical verse to defend his abuse of both Grace and little Miriam. It is a story of the land on which they live, and the power of Mother Nature. Most of all, it is a story of love conquering all.
When did you decide that you wanted to be a writer?
I’ve always wanted to be a writer. In fact, I’ve always been a writer, writing poetry, journal entries, and little stories when I was a girl. But my degree is in psychology; I trained to be a psychotherapist. My plans changed, however, when I was struck by lightning and had to drop out of grad school because of my health issues. My body was broken, but my mind worked just fine, so I started writing feature stories for the Naperville (IL) Sun newspaper. That grew to writing for several papers, and soon I was writing for magazines as well.
But fiction was and is my first love. I began working on my first novel, and never looked back.
What/Who was your inspiration to become a published author?
If by that you mean which authors have been my role models, I’d have to say Willa Cather is number one. Her books are amazing, and my writing style has been compared to hers. But I’m also a fan of Barbara Kingsolver, Margaret George, and Elizabeth Cunningham. On the male author side of things, I adore Mark Twain and Jose Saramago, but I don’t think my writing emulates either. While I can be funny, I’m no Twain, and I can’t write the kind of stream-of-consciousness fiction Saramago writes.
Would you say that writing has been a promising career for you?
It’s been the perfect career for me. I can work when I feel well, and I can take it easy and enjoy a fallow time—what I prefer to call a gathering time—when I’m not well or recovering from a hospitalization. I’ve met wonderful people: my publisher, Kimberlee Williams at Vanilla Heart Publishing; my co-authors there, and other writers I’ve met at conferences and book fairs and on the Internet have all become my writing family. Have you noticed what a close-knit group we writers are? Ask any writer, and they’ll tell you at least 95 percent of their Facebook friends are writers. We support each other; we promote each other. When someone else has a publishing success, we cheer, just as they cheer for us when we have success. It’s a great career!
Is writing your primary career?
Words are my primary career. While I do a lot of writing and publishing, I also am a freelance editor, and I’m told by my clients I’m a pretty good one at that. I’ve helped many, many authors polish their manuscripts, and a lot of my clients have gotten publishing contracts as a result. I use to also teach writing, when I lived in Illinois, but I moved to California a few years ago and haven’t resume that part of my career. I don’t really miss that, though.
If you had to choose one of your books, which one would you say is your favorite?
If I had to choose one of my children, which would I say was my favorite? That’s as impossible a question to answer as asking about my favorite of my books, because my books are like my children. I love them all equally, although for different reasons. I love On the Choptank Shores because the setting is one of my childhood haunts, my aunt and uncle’s peach orchard on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. I love The Cabin because the inspiration for this story came from my own family history. I love my writing books because they give me an opportunity to continue teaching, even if I’m not in front of a classroom anymore. And I love Observations of an Earth Mage because so many readers have emailed me to tell me that I inspired them to get outdoors more, to take a hike, to go camping. Yes, I love all my books.
What would you say is the hardest part of writing a book?
Finding time to write. Life gets in the way. For me, there are always physical therapy and doctor appointments. Then there are the errands: going to the grocery store, the farmer’s market; and the chores: doing laundry, caring for three cats and a dog, being crisis and career counselor to my college-aged daughter. The list goes on and on. And I guess an addendum to “finding time to write” would be “when I’m not too exhausted to do so.” It’s impossible to be creative when your brain is foggy from exhaustion. That’s why I tend to do my best writing in the early morning, before anyone stirs in my household.
Do you have any advice you would like to share with aspiring authors?
Yes, I do. First, study your craft. People tend to think they can just decide to write a book and sit down to write one. But writing a book is an art, just like playing the piano and painting a masterpiece are art forms. Yo-Yo Ma didn’t sit down at the cello one day and decide to play, and produce exquisite music. Picasso didn’t decide one day to paint and produce The Guitarist. They studied their craft. Writers need to do that, too.
Second, get your book professionally edited. I’ve seen so many books full of errors because writers had their Aunt Frieda or their next-door neighbor edit for them, even though neither had a bit of editing experience. Editors know things your aunt and your neighbor don’t know about what a good manuscript looks like. They can find mistakes you probably didn’t even know were mistakes. Don’t skimp on this step.
Third, don’t give up just because your book isn’t accepted at first. I used to tell my students, publishing a book is like running into a wall at full speed. When you hit that wall, you knock yourself out and bloody your nose in the process. But if you pick yourself up, wipe the blood from your face, and say, “Gee, that felt good! I think I’ll do it again!” you’ll eventually knock that wall down. The same goes for getting your book published. If you’ve studied your craft and had your book professionally edited, and if, of course, your story is any good, you will find a publisher.
How long did it take for your first book to be published? Was it turned down before it was accepted?
My first book was published by the second publisher I queried about it. And a funny thing: the first publisher I queried, the one who turned it down before it was accepted by that second publisher, came back to me a few months afterward and asked if the manuscript was still available, that they had changed their minds! Of course, I had to politely tell them it was off the market. Unfortunately, the publisher I went with went out of business less than a year later, but it didn’t matter. I found Vanilla Heart shortly thereafter, and I’ve been with them ever since.
Where can readers find you in the Internet?
Several places. My Website is http://www.smokyzeidel.wordpress.com. From there you can link to all three of my blogs: Smoky Talks Books, which is a book review column; Smoky Talks Authors, which is author interviews, and Observations of an Earth Mage, which, like the book title of the same name, is photos and essays on nature. I’m on Goodreads, and you can find me on Facebook.
Where can they go to purchase your books and short stories?
I’m on Amazon, Smashwords, and All Romance Books. Incidentally, on my Website, at the bottom of each and every page, are widgets that link you to fReado, where you can read the first few chapters of On the Choptank Shores, The Cabin, Observations of an Earth Mage, and my Short Story Collection, Vol. 1.
It’s a terrific way to try before you buy! (And a terrific way for me to hook you into wanting to buy!)
Is there anything else you’d like to say?
Yes! Anyone who leaves a comment at the end of this blog will be eligible to win a free eBook copy of any one of my short stories! Leave a comment or, better still, a question for me to answer. Leave your VALID email so that we can email the winner!